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Accessing Old Excel Data

Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Excel 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Excel, click here: Accessing Old Excel Data.

If you have used computers for some time, you have accumulated quite a bit of data over the years. Unfortunately, not all that data is accessible any more. I have very old spreadsheet data stored in Multiplan files, and if I search around a bit longer, I can probably find some disks containing VisiCalc information.

Accessing information stored in old formats can be a big problem. If you update your computer every couple of years—hardware and software—there is a very good chance that you have old data that is essentially lost because you can no longer load it into a program.

There are several approaches you can take if you need to access older data. First, you can install the older versions of the software on your system (if you have the software) and then save the data files in some "exchange" format. For instance, you can save old Multiplan or early Excel information in SYLK format, which can then be read into newer versions of Excel.

Second, you can search through the Microsoft Knowledge Base for information on doing conversions. For instance, when I searched through the Knowledge Base for "Multiplan," I was able to find several pertinent articles that discussed different ways to update information for use with recent versions of Excel. The Microsoft Knowledge Base is available online at this URL:


Third, you could contact a user in your community who has the older version of the software and use their computer to do the upgrade. Many times you can find such users through a local user's group or through a computer store that sells used computer systems.

Finally, there are companies that specialize in doing data conversions. You can search on the Web for such companies and get quotes for updating your data.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (1973) applies to Microsoft Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Excel (Excel 2007 and later) here: Accessing Old Excel Data.

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